Form = matter
In the early twentieth century, the town of Griffith – located about 650 kilometres west of Sydney, Australia – was a remote and almost unknown settlement consisting of just a few makeshift dwellings in an arid, inhospitable landscape. According to historical documents, the town was founded by Italian immigrants who arrived in large numbers, mainly from the Veneto and Calabria regions, and built a thriving agricultural centre, a kind of Po Valley in the desert. Today some 60 percent of the population of Griffith claim Italian origins, including the owner of the villa featured in this article, who found a young but well-established team of Sydney-based architects The Quinlan Group to be the ideal partner to create a home in harmony with the environment and the people who live there.
“The severe climate and aridity of the site certainly posed a tough test for our project,” noted the practice’s founder Justin Quinlan. “We had to find a specific form and choice of materials that would establish a fruitful dialogue with the landscape and the often unfavourable climate.” In terms of composition, the relationship with the natural environment involved an orderly sequence of simple architectural elements, a kind of house/village contrasting with technologically-advanced construction solutions and materials. As the architect explained, “The use of inadequate materials would weaken the formal solution almost to the point of negating it entirely. For this reason we wanted to use tough and highly durably materials such as ceramic tile. When we chose Italian porcelain from Casalgrande Padana, our client – who has Italian roots – was thrilled.”
The villa is split into two structurally and functionally separate volumes connected by a kind of lobby/gallery. Both the form and the choice of materials reflect the different uses of the volumes. While the daytime unit expresses the maximum airiness and lightness through extensive use of glazed surfaces, the more secluded night-time unit is more self-contained and consists of a static stone volume. The two buildings, added to those of the swimming pool and the garage, form a kind of nest set into a green covered embankment, a solution that enables the house to be concealed from outside view and integrated naturally into the morphology of the terrain. In terms of internal organisation, the spaces flow perfectly from one to the next via a series of “telescopic” openings that gradually reveal the entire house, ultimately leading the gaze to the swimming pool, the end element of the villa’s massing.
But to gain a better understanding of the significance that the architects attach to the relationship between environment and living space, we need to focus our attention on the building materials. Firstly, the use of glass, which through large glazed surfaces reveals glimpses of the landscape, opening up the view and lending airiness to the spaces. Next, the ceramic tiling, which extends seamlessly from the interior into the outdoor spaces, the large-format porcelain sheets providing a visual connection between the various buildings. Thanks to their effective choice of colours and surface finishes, the tiles blend perfectly into the landscape. Last but not least, perfect integration with the location is reflected in the use of environmental resources: solar panels, rainwater recycling and the choice of eco-friendly construction techniques and materials.
Casalgrande Padana Pietre Native: Pietre di Sardegna and Mineral Chrom serie
30x30 30x60 cm
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0.1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): UA
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): N/mm² 50÷60
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R10 A
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant